Scientists Release Early Map of Chocolate DNA

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McLEAN, Virginia -- Some sweet science news: Researchers have released a nearly complete map of the DNA of the tree that produces chocolate.

The project to map the cacao genome was funded by candy maker Mars Inc. It finished the sequence just two years into what was supposed to be a five-year project.

Mars, the maker of Snickers, M&Ms and other candies -- says it hopes the results could someday lead to more robust, higher-yielding and drought- and disease-resistant trees.

An estimated 3 million tons of cocoa is produced globally every year, produced primarily by small farms. But crop losses from pests and diseases costs an estimated $700 to $800 million to farmers each year.

Mars will have spent $10 million on the project by the time it's complete. It worked with partners from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, IBM and researchers at universities across the country.